A Jewish Food Rights Declaration: The Jewish response to the Right to Food

24 May, 2022 | Latest, Right to Food

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This year, René Cassin is launching the Jewish Food Rights Declaration to make clear Jewish community support for the Right to Food. Access to nutritious food is fundamental to human dignity and humanity and as access to food is increasingly difficult for so many families, including in our own community, we cannot allow food banks to become a substitute for the protection of this right. The Declaration presents a united Jewish community voice: we need the Government to enshrine the Right to Food in UK law to ensure everyone’s right to food.

The text of the declaration and the initial signatories reads as follows:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…” (Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948).

 There has never been a more urgent time for a united Jewish voice in support of the Right to Food. We the undersigned believe in the fundamental right of everyone to have access to nutritious and equitable food that is both religiously and culturally appropriate. We believe that this will be achieved by enshrining the Right to Food into UK law, which will hold the Government accountable for ensuring equal and fair access to food. Our Jewish tradition propels us towards the pursuit of equality, equity, justice, and fairness. Whether through ensuring ‘there shall be no more needy among you ‘(Deut. 15:4), ‘Send portions[of food and drink for Festive days] to whoever [is poor and] has not prepared…” (Nehemiah 8:10), and the obligation on Purim to send food and to care for the needy – access to food is central to Jewish life.

 Many of us have been committed to providing food to those most in need through turning our synagogue halls into food banks and delivering Kosher food parcels and hot meals. But this cannot be a solution. Food banks have been pushed to breaking point. In a world that is richer than any time in history, and in the sixth richest country in the world, we have a responsibility to ensure everyone can access and enjoy one of their most fundamental human rights by providing long-term, sustainable remedies for food poverty and inequality.

On World Hunger Day, we are coming together to make clear the need for urgent, comprehensive, and culturally sensitive food provision. The consequences of food poverty know no bounds. Food poverty leads to health and life expectancy inequality, amongst a host of other grave health issues. Food poverty affects children’s educational attainment and life chances. Judaism values dignity – enshrining the Right to Food promotes dignity and liberty for all.

Jewish tradition insists on the duty to right injustice by providing several statutory provisions for the relief of poverty; these regulations demonstrate that it is a duty of society, through its laws, to protect the poor from excessive hardship. This World Hunger Day, our message is clear: enforceable food rights are needed so that Government is accountable for ensuring that nobody goes hungry. Let us put food poverty to rights – in the spirit of our duty of tzedek (justice) and dignity for all.

Signatories:

  1. René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights
  2. Professor Emerita Geraldine Van Bueren QC, convener of the Jewish Food Rights Alliance
  3. Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE
  4. Michelle Barnett MBE
  5. Ian Byrne, MP for Liverpool West Derby
  6. Councilor Sara Conway
  7. Councilor Nathan Boroda
  8. Finchley Reform Synagogue
  9. Finchley Progressive Synagogue
  10. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, New North London Synagogue
  11. The Ark Synagogue, Northwood
  12. Rabbi Josh Levy, Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue
  13. Rabbi Hannah Kingston, Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue
  14. Cantor Tamara Wolfson, Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue
  15. Rabbi Elliott Karstadt, Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue
  16. Habonim Dror
  17. Bnei Akiva
  18. Mitzvah Day
  19. JW3
  20. Jewish Vegetarian Society
  21. The Barnet Multi-Faith Forum
  22. Barnet FoodShare Co-op
  23. NW7 Foodhub
  24. This is Rubbish
  25. Suzanne Gee

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